Tone (tōn), n. [F. ton, L.
tonus a sound, tone, fr. Gr. to`nos a stretching,
straining, raising of the voice, pitch, accent, measure or meter, in pl.,
modes or keys differing in pitch; akin to tei`nein to stretch or
strain. See Thin, and cf. Monotonous, Thunder,
Ton fashion, Tune.] 1. Sound, or the
character of a sound, or a sound considered as of this or that character;
as, a low, high, loud, grave, acute, sweet, or harsh tone.
[Harmony divine] smooths her charming
Tones that with seraph hymns might
2. (Rhet.) Accent, or inflection or
modulation of the voice, as adapted to express emotion or
Eager his tone, and ardent were his
3. A whining style of speaking; a kind of mournful
or artificial strain of voice; an affected speaking with a measured rhythm
ahd a regular rise and fall of the voice; as, children often read with a
4. (Mus.) (a) A sound
considered as to pitch; as, the seven tones of the octave; she has
good high tones. (b) The larger kind of
interval between contiguous sounds in the diatonic scale, the smaller being
called a semitone as, a whole tone too flat; raise it a
tone. (c) The peculiar quality of sound
in any voice or instrument; as, a rich tone, a reedy
tone. (d) A mode or tune or plain chant; as,
the Gregorian tones.
☞ The use of the word tone, both for a sound and for the
interval between two sounds or tones, is confusing, but is common -- almost
☞ Nearly every musical sound is composite, consisting of several
simultaneous tones having different rates of vibration according to
fixed laws, which depend upon the nature of the vibrating body and the mode
of excitation. The components (of a composite sound) are called partial
tones; that one having the lowest rate of vibration is the
fundamental tone, and the other partial tones are called
harmonics, or overtones. The vibration ratios of the
partial tones composing any sound are expressed by all, or by a
part, of the numbers in the series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.; and the quality of
any sound (the tone color) is due in part to the presence or absence
of overtones as represented in this series, and in part to the
greater or less intensity of those present as compared with the
fundamental tone and with one another. Resultant tones,
combination tones, summation tones, difference tones,
Tartini's tones (terms only in part synonymous) are produced by the
simultaneous sounding of two or more primary (simple or composite)
5. (Med.) That state of a body, or of any of
its organs or parts, in which the animal functions are healthy and
performed with due vigor.
☞ In this sense, the word is metaphorically applied to character or
faculties, intellectual and moral; as, his mind has lost its
6. (Physiol.) Tonicity; as, arterial
7. State of mind; temper; mood.
The strange situation I am in and the melancholy state of
public affairs, . . . drag the mind down . . . from a philosophical
tone or temper, to the drudgery of private and public
Their tone was dissatisfied, almost
menacing. W. C. Bryant.
8. Tenor; character; spirit; drift; as, the
tone of his remarks was commendatory.
9. General or prevailing character or style, as of
morals, manners, or sentiment, in reference to a scale of high and low; as,
a low tone of morals; a tone of elevated sentiment; a courtly
tone of manners.
10. The general effect of a picture produced by the
combination of light and shade, together with color in the case of a
painting; -- commonly used in a favorable sense; as, this picture has
Tone color. (Mus.) see the Note under def.
4, above. -- Tone syllable, an accented
syllable. M. Stuart.
Tone (?), v. t. [imp. & p.
p. Toned (?); p. pr. & vb. n.
Toning.] 1. To utter with an affected
2. To give tone, or a particular tone, to; to tune.
See Tune, v. t.
3. (Photog.) To bring, as a print, to a
certain required shade of color, as by chemical treatment.
To tone down. (a) To cause to give
lower tone or sound; to give a lower tone to. (b)
(Paint.) To modify, as color, by making it less brilliant or
less crude; to modify, as a composition of color, by making it more
Its thousand hues toned down
harmoniusly. C. Kingsley.
(c) Fig.: To moderate or relax; to diminish or weaken
the striking characteristics of; to soften.
The best method for the purpose in hand was to employ some
one of a character and position suited to get possession of their
confidence, and then use it to tone down their religious
-- To tone up, to cause to give a higher tone or
sound; to give a higher tone to; to make more intense; to heighten; to